New Campaign to Stop Illegal Bear Bile Exports From China to South Korea
A campaign to end the cross-border trade of bear bile from China to South Korea launched on Wednesday 27 June by Animals Asia and the Korean Animal Welfare Association (KAWA), at a ceremony in Seoul, South Korea. The public awareness campaign informs tourists and travel agencies in South Korea that bringing bear bile into the country from China, is illegal.
Every year, 300,000 South Korean tourists visit bear bile farms in China, according to information from local travel agencies, and 30 percent of these purchase bear bile and bring it back with them to South Korea. This is despite the import of bear bile to South Korea being illegal under Section 269 of the domestic import tariff.
The campaign sees these animal welfare groups working with local travel agencies to inform the public that they should not purchase bear bile and bring it into South Korea. The campaign discourages tour companies from including bear farm trips as part of their itineraries and encourages tourists to refuse to purchase bear bile should they be taken to a bear farm.
Hyecho adventure travel, a South Korean travel agency took part in the launch ceremony and joins the campaign by informing their clients of the illegality of importing bear bile. They will promote the rescue and protection of bears.
Travel Times Korea, a weekly trade newspaper for the travel industry, and Travie Magazine, the monthly travel magazine in South Korea, joined the ceremony and is providing free advertising for the campaign. Travel Times Korea is distributed to all travel agencies in South Korea, and Travie is widely read by the public.
The animal welfare groups will approach other travel companies in South Korea, providing leaflets and posters, and inviting them to join the campaign.
Toby Zhang, China External Affairs Director, Animals Asia commented: "Bear bile farmers in China are selling large amounts of bear bile to tourists from South Korea every year. Many tourists are unaware that it is illegal for them to take the bile back to South Korea with them. They also don't know about the cruelty involved in farming bears, or the concerns on the safety of farmed bile. Without these sales, China's bear farming industry would be much reduced. We are hopeful that this campaign will help to end bear bile farming in China."
In some Asian countries, moon bears are kept in small cages for up to 30 years, and have their bile extracted through catheters, needles and open wounds. Starved, dehydrated and riddled with ailments, this is a living hell for the bears. The bile is used as a form of medicine. Animals Asia is working to end the barbaric bear bile trade, which sees more than 14,000 bears kept in cages on farms throughout China and Vietnam.
Animals Asia is an animal welfare group that campaigns to end bear bile farming, and the only organization with a bear sanctuary in China. The Animals Asia team has been rescuing bears from the bear bile industry since 1994. KAWA is a government-registered non-profit group in South Korea that supports and promotes animal welfare and was founded in 1991. KAWA works to reduce suffering and create change for all animals through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, and protest campaigns.
In addition to the animal welfare and public health concerns, bear bile farming is also a conservation issue. Asiatic black bears are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) lists Asiatic black bears in appendix 1, the most critical category of endangerment.
Leading conservationists believe that bear bile farming is having a negative impact on the Asiatic Black Bear population, with many farmed bears found to have been illegally caught in the wild. The bear farming industry promotes the use of bile, and drives demand, which in turn is thought to lead to the capture of more bears.
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